More than 124,000 migrant workers in the Maldives

The migrant worker population of the Maldives exceeds 124,000, the department of immigration has revealed. The figure includes 94,492 registered expatriates and more than 30,000 undocumented workers.

Controller of immigration Mohamed Anwar told the press on Monday that the department’s main focus at present is strengthening the labour migration system.

The department signed Memoranda of Understanding with four companies this week for deporting undocumented workers.

Under the “shared responsibility” programme, Amin Construction, Ensis Fisheries, Hotels and Resorts Construction, and the China Machinery Engineering Corporation agreed to hire undocumented workers for projects, after which they would be deported.

A government report in 2011 revealed human trafficking to be the Maldives second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123 million a year.

The US state department said foreign workers in the Maldives experience forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage.

The government last month launched a five year strategic action plan to prevent human trafficking in Maldives, but the ministry of economic development did not disclose details of the plan.

The immigration department has deported more than 2,000 foreign workers so far this year, including 1,401 under a voluntary departure programme and 101 workers deported due to criminal offences.

Some 427 undocumented workers were deported after their arrest in various operations while 56 expatriates unfit for working due to poor heath were denied entry.

The majority of migrant workers in the country work in the construction industry.

Anwar said the Maldives needed foreign labour as the country lacked a large workforce. The department’s task was “managing” the influx of migrant workers, he added.

Last month, the immigration department instructed local businesses to send back migrant workers hired as photographers and cashiers before June 7 and apply for cancellation of employment approvals. The department warned that employers who do not comply will be penalised.

Deputy controller of immigration Abdulla Algeen said at Monday’s press conference that 95 percent of migrant workers enter the Maldives legally, but became “irregular” due to the fault of both sponsors and the employees themselves, who often “flee.”

A performance audit of the immigration department released last month noted that the absence of effective enforcement measures prior to 2014, after which the department “started conducting frequent investigations and they have strengthened their enforcement measures such as levying a fine on employers violating the regulations.”

The 2014 census recorded only 58,683 expatriates were residing in the Maldives. The department of national planning had said the figure was much lower than numbers recorded by the immigration department.

NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) estimates there are 200,000 migrant workers in the Maldives – two-thirds of the country’s 341,256 local population.

 

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Three arrested for threatening to kill expatriate waiters

Two men and a minor were arrested on Sunday night for threatening to kill expatriate waiters and damaging property at the Hotel Memorial café in Malé.

Police said the suspects, aged 25, 19, and 15, were taken into custody around 12:30am.

Both men had criminal records for assault, and the 25-year-old had been arrested four times with two cases forwarded for prosecution, police said in a statement.

The 19-year-old had been arrested three times and the 15-year-old twice, it added.

On March 22, a 25-year old Bangladeshi national, Shaheen Mia, was stabbed to death in a Malé café in the southwestern harbour.

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Police declare opposition protests not peaceful, threatens crackdown

The ongoing nightly protests by the opposition ‘Alliance against brutality’ are not peaceful, police have declared, claiming protesters were assaulting police officers and planning to carry out acts of arson in Malé.

At a press briefing on Thursday (March 26), Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz said speakers at the demonstrations were inciting violence and that protesters have repeatedly broken through police lines, disobeyed police orders, and obstructed police duty.

Protesters have also “thrown rocks, glass and lead balls at police ranks,” and attempted to cause physical harm to police officers, he alleged.

During the past two nights (March 24 and 25), Nawaz claimed that speakers “openly” called for subverting peace and security, and “encouraged breaking laws and regulations.”

Nawaz warned that police would disperse protests “without further warning” if protesters attempt to forcibly enter barricaded zones.

Moreover, a decision has been made to disperse protests after prior warning “if any unlawful actions take place to any extent during protests after Saturday night, or if we see such actions are about to take place,” he warned.

The nightly protests first began after the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) allied against the government’s alleged breaches of the constitution on February 12 – two days after the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of weapons possession. Tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

Following Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges on March 13, the MDP accepted an invitation by Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to form a united front against the government’s “brutality” and continued protests this week under the banner “Alliance Against Brutality.”

Shortly after the police press conference, the Elections Commission (EC) announced that it has fined the MDP and AP for allegedly attacking police officers, damaging private property, and inciting violence in violation of laws governing freedom of assembly and political parties.

The MDP and AP were fined MVR47,000 (US$3,047) and MVR33,000 (US$2,140), respectively, and ordered to pay the fine within seven days.

In a letter to the parties, the EC warned that further action would be taken if “such actions are repeated in protests conducted by the parties”.

Police and EC meeting today
Police and EC meeting today

Peaceful assembly

Nawaz meanwhile claimed that individual police officers have been confronted and intimidated at their homes, adding that efforts were underway to “psychologically weaken” police personnel.

Police vehicles and private property have also been damaged, he added.

Nawaz revealed that 162 protesters have been arrested so far and police have forwarded cases involving 95 protesters, including two MPs, to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Criminal Court has also released 62 protesters on the condition that they do not participate in protests for a determined period. Of these, two have subsequently been arrested for attending protests.

Nawaz said the 2013 Freedom of Assembly Act requires protests to be held to achieve a peaceful purpose and be free of violence or any form of incitement to violence.

He noted that the opposition alliance had not notified police prior to any of the nightly protests, which he said has prompted complaints from the public and businesses due to blocked roads and disruptions to public order and safety.

Nawaz also accused certain media outlets of attempting to falsely portray police as brutal towards civilians and said the media cut off live feed when protesters attacked police officers. He warned the police would arrest media personnel if they obstruct police duty.

If police officers violated the law during protests, Nawaz invited political parties and the public to lodge complaints at the relevant oversight bodies.

Meanwhile, at a separate press briefing on Wednesday, Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen said police intelligence has learned of planned acts of arson and other plots to “create fear in the hearts of the people.”

The recent spike in violence against expatriates – which saw two Bangladeshis murdered and four expatriates stabbed this week – was “planned”, he said.

According to police media, Naveen met officials of the EC, Police Integrity Commission, and Human Rights Commission of Maldives on Thursday in “emergency meetings” held to share concerns regarding “turmoil on the streets of Malé planned and carried out by political parties” and discuss counter measures.

Businesses in the capital were facing “irrevocable economic losses” due to the protests and police resources were diverted from law enforcement, Naveen told the independent commissions.

If protesters use loudspeakers after 11:00pm and continue protests after 12:00am in defiance of orders by police – invoking powers under the freedom of assembly law – Naveen said police were considering “not allowing the opportunity to continue these gatherings”.


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Former bitter rivals unite against “brutality” of President Yameen’s government

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Fourth expatriate stabbed in Malé

An expatriate worker was stabbed in the Galolhu ward of Malé around 7:10pm on Wednesday, reports local media.

Police said the expatriate is undergoing treatment at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital after his arm was slashed in a scuffle near the Auto Garage. His condition is not serious, police said.

Today’s assault is the latest incident in a recent spike in violence against expatriates.

A 25-year old Bangladeshi, Shaheen Mia, was stabbed to death in a Malé café in the early hours of the morning on Sunday (March 22), while a Bangladeshi national identified as Bilal was found dead in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddoo Island on Monday night.

The following day, three expatriate workers were stabbed between 7:20pm and 7:40pm in three different locations in Malé.

Police have yet to make any arrests in connection with either the murders or the stabbings.

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Half of workers in Maldives are foreigners: Economic Development Minister

Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed has said that there are over 116,000 expatriates working in the Maldives, amounting 50 percent of the working population.

Speaking at an event held to celebrate the inauguration of a programme to train 2000 salespeople, Saeed said that 81,000 Maldivians are currently registered as employed at the pensions office – equal to 23 percent of the population.

The preliminary results of last year’s census officially recorded the number of foreign workers at 58,000, though the government has previously admitted the figure to be much higher, even after the removal of 8000 undocumented workers last year.

Saeed noted that while 81,000 expatriates in the Maldives worked with proper visa and documentation, approximately 35,000 were working illegally, reported Haveeru, costing the Maldivian economy MVR1.28 billion (US$83 million) annually.

The government’s drive to build the economy on ‘Maldivian work for Maldivians’ has seen a restriction on foreign photographers working in the country, while it will be illegal to hire expatriates as cashiers from April onwards.

Saeed is reported to have told those in attendance yesterday that Maldivians must be willing to work in all types of job.

“Maldivians need to make jobs a high priority. One can’t be a resort owner in one day,” he said.

“A road sweeper could become a manager of a big office tomorrow. You need courage to be successful,” said the waiter turned cabinet minister, sharing his personal story of success.

He stated that the economic growth for this year “stands at 10.4 percent”. Figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority estimate last year’s growth as 8.5 percent.

Youth employment has been a major focus of the Yameen administration, which has pledged to create 94,000 new jobs during its five year term.

Local youth-led NGO Democracy House states unemployment among the youth (aged 15-24) may be as high as 43 percent, with the group having highlighted a “disconnect” between the current school curriculum and life skills.

While the government has established a youth unemployment register with 13,000 individuals, youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has reported complaints from businesses about individuals failing to attend interviews and quitting jobs within a few weeks.

Former Maldives Airports Company Ltd head Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem – dismissed last month – told a Majlis committee in December that difficulties with local staff had resulted in a dependence on foreign employees, to keep the international airport running.

Also speaking at yesterday’s ceremony, Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad suggested that the government’s Special Economics Zone (SEZ) Act would also create large numbers of jobs.

“36 percent of the Maldivian population is the youth,” Haveeru reported Jihad as saying. “The SEZs is an example of how much the government prioritises the youth’s welfare”.

The controversial legislation, which promises to deregulate as-yet unspecified areas of the country in order to attract foreign investors was passed in August last year.

Despite a lack of investments having resulted as yet, governing coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam claimed last weekend that the government would bring investments, the likes of which the country had not seen before.



Related to this story

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Foreigners’ enrollment extended while Majlis considers amendments to Pensions Act

The Maldives Pensions Administration Office (MPAO) has extended enrollment for foreign employees onto its retirement pension scheme until May 15 following an amendment introduced in the Majlis earlier this week.

The enrollment of foreign workers into the scheme – mandated by the first amendment to the 2009 Pensions Act – was scheduled for completion today (April 1).

“We had decided that the date of enrollment should be before 1st April 2014, but now there is a proposed amendment to the Pensions Act in the parliament to make it voluntary for foreigners,” said MPAO Director Ismail Sujau.

“We are giving the delay for one and a half months for foreigners to complete their enrollment and also pay the contributions,” he added.

Sujau confirmed that the scheme will require a contribution of seven percent of employees’ earnings, matching a seven percent contribution from their employers.

The collection of contributions will be still be collected by employers before the end of April, to be handed over to the pensions office by May 15 as originally planned, he explained.

The proposed amendment – submitted by Maavah MP Abdul Aziz Jamaal Abubakr earlier this week – has been welcomed by many expatriates who fear they will struggle to reclaim their contributions upon leaving the Maldives.

“My biggest concern is not getting our money back when we leave, and if we do get it back, getting it back in rufiyaa,” said Varsha Patel, a teacher at Lale Youth International School in Malé.

“Why don’t they just call it an income tax rather than pension?” asked former teacher Rachel Evans*, aged 35.

“Nobody is dumb enough to believe we’re ever going to see that money again. It takes six months to get work visas processed. No way will they ever be able -or willing – to refund this pension at the end of a foreigner’s contract,” she added.

After submitting the amendment this week, Abubakr told local media he felt it would be better for both employees and employers to make the scheme voluntary for foreigners.

“Its enforcement may create difficulties for the employee – it may even result in monetary problems. If he can’t attain his money when he is about to leave the country, then he would face many difficulties. That would even be against his rights,” the Maavah MP told Haveeru.

Contribution concerns

Speaking with Minivan News today, Sujau assured that the regulations allowed for the retrieval of funds, but admitted that specific details of the rebate mechanism were yet to be decided upon.

“There has been a lot of concern – we understand that – even when we have had so many public information sessions,” he said.

“We have heard many concerns, especially when they withdraw the funds. We are collecting the funds in Maldivian rufiyaa and definitely we are paying out in Maldivian rufiyaa so they have a concern because local currency they make not be able to take it back and trade. They can only trade to dollars or some other foreign currency.”

Sujau said that the contributions will be transferred to rufiyaa denominated accounts, or given out in cash, though he acknowledged that transfers to foreign currency accounts had not yet been organised.

“That arrangement we have not been able to make yet. This something we will look into as it progresses.”

A heavy import-export imbalance in the Maldives results in a perennial foreign currency shortage, while a dominant tourism sector – which deals almost exclusively in US dollars – results in a weak local currency.

“What’s the point of them refunding a worthless currency when they could just call it an income tax and keep the money”, asked Rachel.

Meanwhile, Varsha – 26 -suggested that employees had been given inadequate notice of the scheme and insufficient information about how to reclaim contributions.

“We were not really given enough notice – I was only told last month. I’m not very happy to be having a pay cut for no reason.”

After the introduction of the 2009 Pensions Act, the initial regulations made no distinction between local and foreign employees – who were both included in the first phase of the scheme for public sector workers, explained Sujau.

However, just prior to the adoption of private sector workers into the scheme in  May 2011, an amendment was passed requiring separate regulations for foreigners to be drafted within 12 months, and for enrollment to be completed within three years.

Regarding complaints about the scheme, Sujau noted that his office was responsible only for the practical application of governmental decisions.

“As far as the MPAO is concerned, we are an implementing agency, we don’t make policy – we just adopt whatever is in the Pension Act and follow,” he said.

*Name changed as individual wished to maintain anonymity

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HRCM to investigate Immigration Department’s promise of mass repatriation

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has expressed concern over a pledge by immigration authorities to repatriate 10,000 “illegal” expatriates on the back of wider reservations at the treatment of foreign workers potentially trafficked into the country.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud has told Minivan News that the commission was concerned not just over plans to repatriate a predetermined number of unregistered workers, but also whether they were being punished for the actions of employers or agents acting outside the law.

The concerns were raised as the Department of Immigration and Emigration announced yesterday (April 30) that 1,748 foreigners found to be working illegally in the country had been repatriated – the majority by their own request – during the year so far.

Immigration officials also announced commitments to send a further 10,000 unregistered workers back to their home nations during the remainder of 2013.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali said that the repatriated workers had either come to the Maldives with sufficient funding to afford transportation back to their home countries, or that their fares were covered through previously paid “deposits”.

Dr Ali did not however elaborate as to how the immigration department had devised the figure targeting the return of 10,000 unregistered workers to their respective countries.

He stressed that his department would be investigating and punishing employers and agencies responsible for bringing the now unregistered workers to the country if they had acted illegally.

“[The immigration department] will do that with vigour now,” he said.

Dr Ali was reported in local media as adding that 146 foreigners alleged to have involvement in criminal cases were deported this year so far, with 85 illegal workers also sent back to their respective home nations.

“More foreigners come to us voluntarily as we toughen our approach towards them. Everything will be arranged for those who come to us voluntarily. Island Aviation now has direct flights to Dhaka,” he told Sun Online, referring to the large number of Bangladesh nationals working in the country.

Dr Ali told Minivan News last week that while almost all foreign workers coming to the Maldives arrived under registered companies, some were finding themselves “illegally used” by employers due to “systematic abuse” of the visa system once here.

HRCM investigation

Responding to the immigration controller’s pledge this week, HRCM member Jeehan said that the commission itself had not been consulted by the Immigration Department over its proposed crack down on unregistered workers.

From the perspective of the HRCM, Jeehan said there was particular concern about the safety and vulnerability of the foreign workers set to be returned by authorities, particularly in the case of expatriates who were heavily in debt as a result of paying companies or agents to come to the country to find work.

“If they are working or staying here undocumented, how safe are they to be returned home,” she said. “We must consider how vulnerable some of these people are, it is different for those who request repatriation or course.”

The HRCM is now set to investigate the conditions by which these foreign workers are being repatriated, especially in regards to concerns that unregistered expatriates may have been detained as a result of the actions of agents or employers in the country.

According to Jeehan, issues also needed to be addressed over how the Immigration Department had decided to set a predetermined number of foreign workers that it would look to repatriate.

“How has the state arrived at this number? Whether it is the result of a baseline study or some other research we need to know,” she said. “Also, how is the state identifying the 10,000 workers that need to go back home and are they sure they are undocumented? Questions also need to be asked of what the state is doing with these expatriates before they are sent home. It is unfair if they are being detained as a result of the faults of others.”

Jeehan added that before any undocumented foreign workers were being repatriated, it was also important to ensure that employers had paid the salaries of all staff and were honoring their obligations to workers.

“These employees should be provided with their due wages and compensation, it is for the state to guarantee this,” she added.

Jeehan said that the HRCM was presently seeking to consult the Labour Relations Authority (LRA) over a number of issues that it said would include how unregistered workers were being sent out of the country.

“We will look to meet with the LRA first, as they are the state authority outlining employment practices, s we can see what role they may have had in outlining these policies,” she said.

Jeehan added that if the LRA has not had a role in the outlining this repatriation policy, than the HRCM might “have an issue” with the process.

When contacted by Minivan News today, LRA Assistant Director Aishath Nafa Ahmed said the body had no involvement in outlining policies on the repatriation of foreign workers since last year.

She added that although the LRA was involved in a steering committee that focused on issues surrounding the country’s foreign workforce, the authority had not had any discussions over plans to repatriate 10,000 workers this year.

Human trafficking

The Maldives has appeared on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for three consecutive years. Should the Maldives drop to tier three – the worst category – then the country is expected to face significant reductions in aid and potential travel restrictions on its citizens.

Despite the government last year launching a special state program to try and draw awareness to the problems beyond human trafficking, concerns have continued to be raised by various NGOs and authorities at the scale of human trafficking in the country amidst fears of widespread corruption within the visa system.

Just last month, a source working within the immigration department alleged that companies across the Maldives were freely abusing visa regulations by generating fictitious labour demand to directly profit from trafficking foreign workers into the Maldives.

The source told Minivan News that almost no human verification was being undertaken by authorities to ensure workers were genuinely employed once a business or construction project was approved in the country.

In theory, a Maldivian company could submit design plans for an existing structure such as Manchester United’s 75,811 seat Old Trafford Stadium – and then be assigned a computer-generated quota of foreign workers, the same source claimed.

One former Bangladesh High Commissioner in the Maldives alleged back in 2010 that the exploitation of foreign workers in the country rivalled fishing as the most profitable sector in the national economy after tourism.

Addressing the current scope of unregistered foreign labour, Maldives Association of Construction Industry (MACI) former President Mohamed Ali Janah said earlier this year that an estimated 40 percent of the foreign employees in the sector were thought not to be legally registered.

Considering these numbers, Janah said he could not rule out the involvement of organised crime in certain employment agencies, which supply a large amount of foreign labour to building sites in the Maldives.

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DRP positioned as “moderate” alternative to PPM and MDP: Dr Mausoom

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said it will provide a “moderate” alternative to the more “extreme” political policies of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), ahead of presidential elections set for 2013.

Speaking to Minivan News today, DRP Parliamentary Group Leader and MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that the party was pushing ahead with a new national strategy over the next 12 months to employ more “moderate policies” in areas like economic development and privatisation.

The comments were made following a DRP rally held on Thursday at the artificial beach area of Male’. During the gathering, speakers including party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali claimed the party had both the following and the polices to defeat the MDP and former President Nasheed at the next elections.

While being ultimately committed to playing a role in coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan until an election race begins, Dr Mausoom also stressed that with “no clear agreement” on the exact policies of the present government during its formation, “differences of opinion” were to be expected among different parties.

According to Parliamentary Group Leader Mausoom, the impact of these differences was potentially already being seen in the rivalry between different parties.

Local media coverage of the rally alleged that around 60 people in the audience at Thursday’s gathering were expatriate workers who were instructed by several Maldivians to stand and applaud during talks from key DRP figures. However, Dr Mausoom responded that any expatriate workers present had likely been supplied by political rivals to tarnish the party’s reputation.

“This sort of thing is done to tarnish the reputation and respect held by the public for the DRP. The public often judge popularity by the number of people at the rally and we noticed some of the media had taken photos of the rally before people had begun arriving,” he said. “It is very irresponsible , but we expect this to happen as rivalry increases between different parties.”

“New drive”

Mausoom said that Thursday’s rally represented the beginning of a “new drive” by the party to hold events across the capital and in the outer atolls to mobilise and involve its members in promoting its policies and attracting new followers.

“We are getting lots of support from members in the islands and things look very promising for the party right now. We are anticipating huge numbers to join us [up to 2013],” he added. “We are attracting many MDP members who have been let down by the party’s failure to uphold democracy and shifting towards us.”

Mausoom contended that the DRP also expected to attract members of other political parties in the country that he said had been “more extreme” in their policies and actions.

“We are a clear alternative to major parties like the PPM and MDP. The MDP for example mismanaged democracy [during the administration of former President Nasheed]. They disrespected the rule of law and independent institutions. The DRP will give due respect to the law.”

Mausoom claimed that this respect for law was reflected in the more “moderate stance” the party hoped to take on issues ahead of the next general election.

“We don’t want privatisation of essential public services. In areas like education and healthcare we are completely against total privatisation,” he said. “At the moment we are committed to more generic policies. But we will be announcing more clear objectives later.”

In trying to play up the party’s more “moderate” political aims, Mausoom raised two key issues were it had already shown a difference of opinion to other government-aligned parties, such as the PPM.

“One issue has been the motion to renounce the Maldives’ commonwealth membership. The DRP has said it would not support this. This is the same for debates on national health funds. We believe that basic healthcare should be provided by the state.”

According to Mausoom, the DRP also holds a vital and unique role in the Majlis for enabling policy that was being passed in parliament, either by voting in line with the government-aligned PPM or the opposition MDP.   The MDP and the PPM are presently are two largest parties in terms of parliamentary representatives.

“Any amendments to laws or policy in the country need to be passed through the Majlis. In order to get the numbers to do this, there should be either a PPM and DRP agreement, or a DRP and MDP agreement,” he said, “However, there may be issues that we do not agree and we would not therefore back these changes. There may be issues that the MDP and PPM agree on passing, but I do not see that happening.”

The party claimed it represented a “middle ground” within Maldivian politics between the MDP and the PPM, established by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The claim was rubbished by MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor however, who claimed that the DRP as a political party had been stifled both internally and externally.

The DRP was originally founded by Gayoom before a war of words with his annointed successor and present party leader Thasmeen saw a breakaway faction of party members establish the PPM.

Ghafoor alleged that following the formation of the PPM, which now holds the second largest number of MPs in the Majlis behind the MDP, the DRP was effectively being replaced as a political entity by Gayoom’s new party.

“I believe that the DRP have failed to identify themselves and what they stand for,” he said.  “Over the weekend, Mr Thasmeen spoke of having outlined policies that can defeat the MDP at elections. But he has failed to articulate any of those policies. I would welcome commitments to establish a grass roots political network on islands like the MDP has done, but the DRP have not managed this. The party is disappearing and the PPM is replacing it.”

Ghafoor claimed that whilst the MDP had identified itself as “a democratic champion” under former President Nasheed, the rest of the country’s political parties had been “left behind” and failed to provide actual alternative polices to the public.

PPM power

Despite the MDP’s claims, PPM Vice President Umar Naseer told Minivan News last month that he believed the MDP realised it faced electoral defeat in the current political environment.

Naseer, who had previously served as deputy leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) before being dismissed, claimed that recent by-election victories for the party over the last two months,  showed clear public support for the wider coalition government.

“If [general] elections were held right now, the MDP would be defeated badly,” he said. “The MDP understands this.”

Ahead of any future presidential elections, Naseer claimed the PPM was focused on bolstering its presence in the Majlis after assuming the minority parliamentary leadership role in April.

Naseer claimed the party would continue pursuing a coalition that might eventually allow it to replace the MDP as majority leader in the majlis.

“Our main focus now will be the elections in 2013,” he said.

Naseer added that when elections were held, the PPM would be working to strengthen the position of its own possible presidential candidate.

“My feeling right now is that [President Waheed] will not stand during the presidential elections,” he claimed.

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Work permits to go cyber next month

Applications for work permits in the Maldives may be submitted on-line starting February, the Human Resources Ministry (HRM) has said.

The system changeover will take place on February 1, 2012.

HRM has worked with the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT) to create the internet-based work permit system.

According to local media, applications for new worker quotas must be submitted through the new system as well, while employment agencies are also asked to register via the new system.

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